There’s no denying that things have taken a turn for the strange this year. Between massive layoffs and push to online commerce out of necessity, many people have been cooped up in their homes, taking care of business from the comfort of their couches. While it’s true that working remotely can indeed be pretty amazing, it often implies a lack of one thing every human needs to function well: face-to-face communication.
Sure, the world is becoming more anxious. Yes, it’s easier to take care of stuff from the palm of your hand. And if we’re honest, some interactions are much more comfortable if they don’t involve another human being. But human beings we still are, and therefore, we still need each other, now more than ever.
Before things get too flowery, let’s get to the point of today’s post: good business requires face-to-face communication. Such interaction has been the lifeblood and driving force of commerce for centuries. It makes sense, then, that we haven’t entirely outgrown it yet–even though the lightning-fast pace of technological evolution (Cloud Computing from your smartwatch, anyone?) would have you think otherwise.
No, human beings still need to talk to each in person, especially if they’re doing business. If you’re still not convinced, read on to learn how face-to-face communication can specifically benefit a business.
The interplay of verbal and non-verbal communication
Most people have forgotten how intertwined verbal and non-verbal communication are. Without one of them, simple messages can be quickly misinterpreted and even twisted. For this reason, communicating face-to-face is a surefire way to get your point across both with and without words. Moreover, this skill is especially important for leaders; leaders can demonstrate active listening and show how attuned they are to their employees’ concerns by trying to understand their perspective in person. These in-person discussions are especially crucial when you’re trying to implement new company policies or individual behavioral changes.
Address sensitive issues more delicately
Have you ever tried to deliver bad news over text? It often doesn’t go well. On top of that, both you and your recipient might miss out on a lot of essential cues and information, seeing as texting is a strictly verbal means of communication. However, sensitive issues are best discussed in person, if for no other reason than out of respect to the other person. You can also turn these potentially problematic conversations into trust-building opportunities with your employees. To achieve this, though, you will have to flex your empathy muscles hard and try to understand the other person’s mindset. The more you prepare and can better communicate your perspective in person, the less likely it is that the other person will misinterpret what you’re saying.
Make more convincing arguments
There are few modern-day grievances more annoying and cumbersome than getting into a debate or argument over text. Not only does it drag things out way more than they should be, but you might not get all of your concerns heard. Worse still, you probably don’t have their full attention the entire time, and therefore, you have an argument where neither of you is likely very engaged.
However, any small business owner can tell you that swaying people to your side is an invaluable skill. With that in mind, it’s hard to deny that it’s much easier persuading people who are physically in front of you. Negotiating with someone face-to-face means you are much more likely to have their full attention, speak honestly about the way you feel, and resolve the matter more quickly than you would over text or email. Face-to-face discussions will save you both time and a lot of unnecessary headaches.
It’s hard to brainstorm over text, no matter what Slack would like to tell you otherwise. Brainstorming with your team in person means people can bounce ideas off of each other much faster, and therefore, create a solution much more quickly. Even substitutes for a face-to-face conversation like videoconferencing still delay communication enough to make brainstorming tedious. Gathering everyone together to brainstorm and address company-wide issues is an efficient way to manage your employees and waste less of everyone’s time.
Better working relationships
Checking in with someone over text is a nice gesture, but it still lacks the personability of an in-person chat. By communicating face-to-face with your employees, you can cultivate deeper, more trusting bonds that’ll improve your company’s overall efficiency. As a company leader, one of your duties is to build a sense of community among your employees. The best way to do this is by frequently talking with them in person. More organic communication methods translate into healthier and more organic working relationships.
However, there are a few downsides to prioritizing face-to-face communication as well.
As employee schedules become more and more individualized, it might be hard to find a common meeting time to bring your team together to collaborate on new ideas, give and receive feedback from each other, and share important company news. While it’s hard to deny the benefits of holding face-to-face meetings, some bits of information simply doesn’t necessitate them. You may gain favor with your team if you only send out text notices and updates for less-important company memos. This decision will ultimately come down to you and what your company culture is like, though.
Not suitable for large meetings
Remember assembly in elementary school? If you don’t, you probably at least remember how boring it was. The same principle applies to company meetings with a lot of attendees; more people in the room means less time to share original ideas and therefore, decreased overall attention span. If you want to get your employees’ attention in person, consider holding meetings of no more than ten or 15 people. If you can afford it, shoot for individualized sessions. The more time your employees have to share their ideas and perspective, the more likely they are to feel important and needed in your company. This sense of belonging will more than likely boost both productivity and morale.
Now that you’ve considered some of the pros and cons of good, ol’-fashioned face-to-face communication, ask yourself how you’re already setting this example in your current leadership role. If you feel like you have little to show, think about ways you could incorporate it more into your daily work life.